RELEASED ON: 11/22/01
LINEAGE: Monitor Mix SBD > 4 TRACK RTR @ 7.5 IPS (Dolby B) > PCM > D > SSSB (Dolby B decoded); NRPS opened; *=w/Joan Baez; **=w/Matt Kelly; ***=w/John Cippolina; Bill Graham flies in on a giant joint; LAST "Dark Star": 01-20-79 ; any/all editing, fades, NR, hiss elimination, phase shifting/"time smear" correction, jitter elimination, EQ, and quantization noise elimination (when down-converting audio to 16-bit / 44.1kHz for CD-R mastering), were all performed using 24-bit / 96 kHz digital realm processing at Serafin Station Studio B [this show was released 11/01]
JAY'S PERSONAL COMMENTS:
NOTE: This is NOT the version of the show which is in circulation now; that copy is the "regular SBD" mix, while this version is the Monitor Mix version (differences in mix and volume for each instrument and vocalist). This information was verified by my Marin County source, who sent me this version to work on and release.
It was told to me, by my Marin County source, that Phil wanted each band member to hear how the slightly different way they played a lot of the electric songs actually sounded, and then it would be decided whether to keep playing them in this manner, revert back to the "old ways", or to try a different approach. You can hear this on the "staggered chorus vocals" on Shakedown Street, the opening of Me & My Uncle, CR&S, Playin' In The Band (the opening is distinctly "old school"), as is Dark Star), etc. You'll notice that the vocals are slightly more prominent in the mix, as well as they're "dry"... no reverb, delay, etc., and no compression/limiting, so you'll hear it when Jerry (especially) and Bobby back off from their microphones a little bit, or go off their "pickup axis"... their voices kind of trail off slightly. It's more realistic that hearing them at their C&L form, as you can mentally picture Jerry moving back slightly when he's ending a line in a sing. The kick drums, and some of the toms, aren't as much in the mix either, as they could be hear more by the musicians on stage naturally, and didn't need to be in the mix as much. You can hear, on Disc 1 Track 6, where the sound crew started to put the effects onto Jerry's vocals, but they got the "wave off", and stopped it. So, you can hear what the "normal mix" would have been, compared to this monitor mix. You'll also hear some of the levels of the instruments being raised and lowered, slightly and slowly, as not to be abrupt and annoying.
The Ken Kesey opening of Electric Set II (Countdown to Midnight) has Ken really, and literally, freaking out on stage when the band begins to play BEFORE the stroke of midnight! Ken's trying to tell the "You're starting too soon", but to no avail. This isn't a "knock" on Ken, but simply an example of how he was on stage sometimes. And it was the day Ken dies is when I was working on that part of the show... the master had a LOT of volume problems (cycling up and down), and I was having a very tough time getting the parts to match up without having to delete a lot of the Countdown (only 15 seconds were lost, due to the mixing console getting knocked out of whack). But when Ken died, it was almost like he was "guiding me", and the solutions came to me so clearly, it was unreal. Personally, I do think that Ken had his hand in me getting the Countdown correct. Thanks, my friend!
The BAD NEWS: The Acoustic Set was not being on the masters I received from my MC source. The good news is that all 3 of the Electric Sets are complete. The encore is from the regular SBD mix, and as such, has a slightly different audio difference. I did make every attempt to match the encore's EQ curve to that of the show itself, with very good results. Only 2 reel changes were needed in this recording, and they were during lulls or very low-volume sections of the show. Only one cross-fade, which was between songs, is evident, as I didn't have a lot of "working room" to do a longer cross-fade. This is the end of Good Lovin' into the Encore. But, it was better than the original, and is the best I could do.
The RTR (especially the Encore, which was quite noisy) was a bit on the hissy side, even with the Dolby B (or because of it, take your pick!). The hiss has been brought down to "damn near inaudible", and it's only the opening couple of seconds of Dark Star where you actually can hear the hiss in the audio. So, this is a VERY CLEAN show, audio-wise, and very energetic to boot.
Ok... on with the "Set by Set" breakdown of the show:
The opener, Shakedown Street, is LONG! Very refreshing to hear an extended set of solos, and it set the tone for the remainder of the night. Close to 16 minutes, it's rockin' and smokin' from the first chord. I really liked the "staggered chorus vocals" towards the end of the song. It's hard to explain in words, but you'll hear it... similar to how a group of people would sing "Row, Row, Row Your Boat"). This was one of those "new ways" ideas of Phil's, it was new to me, and I thought it gave the song that little extra touch... it took the usually "monotonous" way the 3 vocalists would do the chorus, and made it sound "brand new" again. An "old time" opening to Me & My Uncle > Mexicali was nice to hear. Reminiscent of the early '70's "C&W Style" the Boyz did a lot of their songs in. Again, not disappointing at all.
Cold Rain & Snow, sort of the same "older opening", and again, nice on the ears. Big Boss Man -> Minglewood was a nicely staged segue. Well done, and on the unusual side. Don't Ease Me In had NOT segue to it, which was NOT ordinary.
Onto Set II...
The Ken Kesey opening had quite a lot of SBD problems, as the audio was constantly fluctuating feeding the RTR deck. That was all edited out, rather than trying to alter the volume, as there was simply too much to do (and to make it sound right, as there were audible effects changes going on). About 30 seconds of this opening track were edited out, and only a couple of Ken's words wound up "on the cutting room floor". A very "Space-oriented" early Countdown To Midnight started early, and Ken simply was in a panic. I could picture him running around the stage trying to keep everyone from starting the song! The band, by my calculations, started Aiko about 25 seconds too early... oh well, that's life in a live show. Aiko had nothing special to offer, in my opinion, just a slight party feel to it. Playin' In The Band, well it was too short for my personal taste. They went into the Playin' Jam after just 3 minutes into the song. But it was a GOOD and HOT Jam, a bit over 11 minutes. The PITB Jam into Terrapin was nice, with Bobby leading the segue, not Jerry. Jerry was on the mark for his solos and riffs in Terrapin, and the audience was not left "wanting" at all. A good and smooth segue back into Playin' (again, 3 minutes!) was just wonderful. The band started to drift off going into Drums (which starts on Disc 3), so there was almost silence, so real segue. You can hear the instruments being unplugged before Mickey and Billy got their groove on.
Drums began with the audience ambience microphones turned on, and there was a very noticeable jump in the volume. This was a good place to start Disc 3, since there weren't any other members playing their instruments at the time. Drums is slightly "overloaded", because of the levels of the up front monitors kept feeding into the percussion mics, and the audience ambience just added to this. So, on the very low-frequency sections of Drums, there's noticeable (albeit slight) distortion. It detracts from the enjoyment a little, but there's nothing I could do about this. The ambience mikes were lowered down once Space began, and by the time Space was over, they were only slightly on. This is the opposite of what was going on before Drums, where I believe the ambience mikes were totally turned off.
In keeping with this "new style" tryout, TOO wasn't set off with the usual Phil riff, but more of a subtle opening. I wasn't upset with this, but it did surprise me, especially with it being New Year's Eve. I wanted to hear a good, resounding Phil riff and a couple of Phil Bombs thrown in for good measure, but all of us were denied this. Ah, such is life. The remainder of Electric Set II, which was TOO > NFA > GDTRFB > Morning Dew (great energy, and very good "dynamics") were not disappointing. These were mostly their current forms of the songs, so I need not go into details of these songs.
A slight break (I believe it was about 15 minutes) took place, and the Dead set up for the 3rd electric set. And we would not be denied for good music.
I had to keep looking (literally!) at my editing sheets to remind myself of the year... Dark Star's keyboards were almost identical to the typical Keith riffs and fills, except that it was Brent on the electric piano. This 14+ minute song was a dream! You could picture Keith playing, rather than Brent, and Jerry was just letting it rip. Hard on the vocals, well done with his solos and fills, he spanned his repertoire of playing. The verses were short, leaving the audience a lot of music to absorb. This is a Dark Star which you want to play over and over again, as it was a 1970's style version. Well received (remember, the audience mikes were still on slightly!) and very much enjoyed, the audience had to be disappointed to hear it end.
The DS > Bertha segue was SHORT... and I mean THREE MEASURES SHORT! No, this wasn't a tape splice, this is how it was. And because of the lack of compression and limiting, Jerry was really belting out the vocals, and I was in heaven. Damn, this man could sing when he wanted to, and this Bertha is one of my all-time favorites!
Upon first (and maybe 2nd or 3rd) listening, you would think that I started Track 3 (Good Lovin') way too soon. But the GL riffs were in there, buried in the rest of the music. So, I start the songs where the actual song becomes apparent, not from any "teaser". Bobby, worn and weary from this night, mustered up his energy and did a Pigpen-energy Good Lovin'. Weir was not going to leave the audience disappointed, and he dished up this song in high-octane-Dead style.
The most unusual thing about the Electric sets: NOT A SINGLE BRENT SONG. Those of you who are Brent fans are going to be disappointed that all you get are his backup vocals (which were very good), and his style of playing that night (which was VERY good). I don't know why it was this way, but since I haven't heard the Acoustic opening set at all, I don't know how much Mydland contributed in that set.
Now comes the "downer of the night". Probably the most disappointing Baby Blue I have ever been graced with listening to. I'm sorry if this offends anyone, but the combo of Jerry and Joan Baez DOES NOT WORK. Here's a man who keeps his vocals short and sweet, and a folk singer who stretches out each word in that (sometimes unbearable) falsetto/vibrato voice of hers. Picture in your mind the worse Donna/Jerry vocal duet, multiply it by about 500, and that's the Baby Blue for the closer. It simply didn't work. My mind kept telling me to leave the song out, and just lie about it not being in the masters I got, but my Marin County source would be a little upset (my source doesn't tell me how to write my comments, I'm just given information I would have not known by listening to the show) if the entire show wasn't released. My personal feeling: just end your listening of this great show before the encore starts.
All I can say about this show: very 70's style in many ways, high energy, Kesey was being Kesey, and the Dead did not disappoint the audience that night. It's a wonderful NYE show in many ways, and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
PERSONAL RATINGS: (on a 1 to 10 scale with 10 being excellent)
Audio Mix: 10
Audio Quality: 10
Energy Level: 9.8
Show "Completeness": 10 (not counting the missing Acoustic Set)
Song Selection: No Brent songs
Surprises: The openings of many of the songs reverted back to the 1970's era style of playing... this monitor mix (rare), and the show as a whole
Oakland Auditorium Arena Oakland, CA
"This show is dedicated to the memory of Ken Kesey, who passed away while I was editing Disc 2 at the time... he "guided me" through a very tough section which contained a large number of master volume changes! I'll shake his hand again someday, and tell him 'Thanks for the help'... and I know Ken will just give me that knowing wink of his..."
Jay Serafin, owner/chief engineer, Serafin Station Studio B